TM Landry College Prep operating out of the Founders’ House; students featured in ‘Accepted’ documentary | Education
A private, unaccredited school in Acadiana that captured national attention with viral online videos of its students reacting to acceptance into Ivy League colleges and again when its founder was accused of tampering with college admissions records is back to its starting point: founders.
TM Landry College Prep, which had about 200 students in 2018 with plans to add campuses in Opelousas and Baton Rouge, is down to about 20 students taking classes at the homes of Michael and Tracey Landry, school board president Greg Davis, said Friday.
The school was established in 2005 in the Landry home to provide children from working class and minority families with an alternative to traditional public schools which have repeatedly failed to prepare students for acceptance. in elite universities considered the best opportunity to get them out. of poverty.
“If you look at the data on schools in North Lafayette, the numbers are just atrocious,” Davis said. “So many children are not being served by the education system.”
Many of these students, he said, were unable to enter university. Many of those who did were unprepared to succeed in college. The Landrys and their supporters changed that, Davis said.
An explosion of attention and enrollment occurred in 2017-2018 when viral videos online showed the reactions of minority students and classmates to acceptance at schools such as Harvard, Stanford and Yale. . Headteachers boasted that 100% of its students were accepted into colleges and universities, attracting media attention from national newspapers and television stations and appearances on shows such as “Ellen”.
But the high was quickly followed by a crash when The New York Times in November 2018 published an investigative article based in part on interviews with former students, parents and teachers who alleged the Landrys had tampered with or coerced students to falsify admissions applications and transcripts to bolster acceptance. at prestigious universities.
Some students also alleged that Michael Landry physically, verbally and psychologically abused them and their classmates.
A parent filed a report with the Breaux Bridge Police Department in 2017 alleging Michael Landry strangled his son, but it does not appear he has been charged.
The Louisiana State Police investigated the abuse allegations and, according to news reports, forwarded the information to the St. Martin Parish Attorney’s Office. But no charges other than a 2012 case appear in a criminal case search with the St. Martin Parish Clerk.
In 2012, a college student accused Michael Landry of choking, whipping, slapping and knocking him to the ground when he was 12. Michael Landry was charged in this case with one count of assault and battery, a misdemeanor to which he pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to 90 days in St. Martin’s Parish Jail, suspended, and one year probation.
The FBI in 2019 investigated the school admission allegations. Davis said he and others associated with the school were interviewed, transcripts, files, emails and text messages were confiscated by the FBI, he said, but he did not haven’t heard anything since.
An FBI spokesperson told The Acadiana Advocate on Friday that, in accordance with Justice Department policy, “the FBI neither confirms nor denies the existence of an investigation.”
“Here we are, four years later,” Davis said, “and no charges have been laid against anyone, against any of us.”
The documentary “Accepted” premiered on Friday
Before the bottom dropped from TM Landry with the New York Times story, director Dan Chen, who was at Jubilee Media at the time, heard about the viral college admissions videos and got arranged to visit the school to promote its successes by tracking four students. , returning every few weeks or months, for over a year and a half.
After a while, Chen said he felt his film crew’s relationship with Michael Landry was becoming strained, possibly because they had been there longer than other media outlets. Maybe Michael Landry sensed the crew was digging, he said. They didn’t know why Michael Landry was so sensitive back then.
After returning to Los Angeles from a trip, a teacher from the school sent an email saying she was no longer in school and did not want to be in the film. The next time the film crew was in Louisiana, they met the teacher and a group of parents who described what was in the New York Times story. The crew halted the project, choosing not to investigate the disassembly.
“We put the hard drives on the shelf and walked away from the project,” Chen said.
But the students asked the film crew to come back and they decided to continue the story, not just about the allegations, but about the students – Cathy Bui, Adia Sabatier, Alicia Simon and Isaac Smith – and their journeys afterwards. the story of the bomb.
“I wanted to explore the complexity of students in this situation, independent of the New York Times story,” Chen said Thursday. “I wanted to explore what it’s like to be in a small town and go for that dream” that people don’t expect them to achieve, and to explore how bad the world can sometimes be dark.
“Accepted” is the documentary film directed and produced by Chen. It premiered in 2021 at the Tribeca Film Festival and spent a year on the film festival circuit.
The film was released July 1 in select theaters in Los Angeles and New York, and on iTunes, Prime Video, Apple TV and on-demand streaming services nationwide.
‘Accepted’ takes viewers on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, from the highs of online videos showing students’ genuine joy at being accepted into top universities to the lows after the story broke and many lost confidence in the TM Landry program, leaving some meaningless.
“The movie,” Chen said, “shows how ruthless this type of college admissions (system) is.”
He thanked the residents of Breaux Bridge and Lafayette for their hospitality and generosity during filming and urged them to watch “Accepted.”
“I hope community members can watch it, discuss it, and decide for themselves what they think is right,” Chen said.
NYT History Fallout
The fallout from the New York Times investigation has devastated school enrollment. The school moved from a modern two-story building at Breaux Bridge to a metal building, a former ice rink, on Moss Street in Lafayette, eventually moving from that location back to the Landrys’ home.
The company’s registration as TM Landry College Prep with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office was revoked in October 2020 by the state, according to online records. No reason was given and calls to the state office were not returned last week.
The Landrys re-registered the school with the Secretary of State in December 2019 as TM Landry College Prep and Personal Empowerment Academy under a new charter number. On Friday, the new company was listed as active but not in good standing for failing to file an annual report.
Davis, who was the longtime manager of the Cajundome in Lafayette, awarded for his handling of the sudden influx of evacuees at the Cajundome in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, has long been an advocate for improving opportunities education for black students and disadvantaged youth. He was and remains a strong supporter of TM Landry.
As of 2019, the year following the New York Times story, 100% of TM Landry graduates, Davis said, are either in college or have graduated from college. Students in the classes of 2019-22 have been admitted to universities including Duke, Boston University and Seton Hall, according to data provided by Davis.
Students who stick to the TM Landry curriculum, he says, do well in college. Some who don’t, he says, struggle.
David said his biggest disappointment is that the New York Times story has ruined the school’s reputation so badly that it no longer serves the large number of students who need help.
“That means these black kids are stuck in these underperforming schools,” he said. “A lot of them, if they graduate, they’re not ready for college and they don’t go to college. A lot of them, when they go to college, they can’t finish it. because they are very backward academically. That was the student population we targeted.”
Ironically, parents and alumni of TM Landry alleged the same from this prep school, namely that its graduates were not college ready and unable to compete academically at universities in elite.